PLANS to flatten an outdated tower block as part of ambitious regeneration plans for Hebburn town centre have been backed by residents.
People living in Westmorland Court received hand-delivered letters yesterday, telling them their homes are set to be demolished.
That mailshot follows the decision to demolish agreed this week by South Tyneside Council’s cabinet.
The move has received the support of town councillors, and all of the tenants the Gazette spoke to at Westmorland Court backed the demolition plans too.
Some expressed concerns about where and when they would be rehoused, however.
Community spokesman Cicely Horspool has only been a resident of Westmorland Court for two years – after being forced to leave her previous home in nearby Victoria Court, the last town centre maisonette being bulldozed as part of council regeneration plans – but she is in favour of her current home being demolished too.
Mrs Horspool, 74, said: “I had heard rumours it was coming down. I think it’s the right thing to do. These kind of blocks are outdated and not really suitable.
“The flat I have in Westmorland Court is where my mother lived for 26 years, and it’s lovely and cosy, but looking after the block as a whole takes a lot of money.
“My only concern is that I will moving again for the second time in just a few years, and I would like to stay in the Hebburn town centre area.”
Mrs Horspool, a local representative on the council’s Hebburn community area forum, added: “I would imagine most people would support demolition, as long as they are rehoused where they want to go.”
Built in the early 1970s, Westmorland Court has had to contend with many repair and design issues over recent years.
Plans to flatten the tower block follow recent large-scale demolition work in the town centre to clear the way for the £12m Hebburn Hub scheme.
That preparatory work has seen several maisonette blocks flattened.
The letter from South Tyneside Council to tenants in Westmorland Court tells them: “As you may be aware, the block requires major investment to bring it up to 21st century living standards.
“This would cost several million pounds to complete.”
Paul Sanderson, 30, lives in Westmorland Court with his grandmother May Sanderson, 89, and he too will be glad to see his home pulled down.
He said: “I can understand why the council would want to pull the block down.
“We have lived here several years and generally like the flat, but I can see that the building’s not ideal nowadays.
“The only concern my grandmother would have is that she is offered ground-floor accommodation, because of her problems getting about.”
Two other people in the tower block asked by the Gazette also said they understood the reasons for flattening it.
But demolition of the block is not imminent, and it could take four or five years before it is emptied and ready to be knocked down.